Tue, Jun 15, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Anxiety in the KMT grassroots runs deep

CAUGHT IN BETWEEN Lien Chan is trying to drum up support for merging with the PFP, but many local KMT leaders feel that would only strengthen support for the pan-greens

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Despite the launch of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan's (連戰) "thanksgiving tour" this weekend as part of an effort to gain supporters for his proposed merger with the People First Party (PFP), disapproval and hesitancy still linger in the KMT grassroots -- especially in central and southern Taiwan.

"I am against the merger," said Lin Po-lun (林伯崙), a KMT vote captain (樁腳) in Kaohsiung.

"Vote captain" is a term used to describe influential local personalities who are capable of gathering votes for candidates.

"The reason I'm against it is that people in southern Taiwan generally do not have a good impression of Mainlanders," Lin said, referring to the widespread impression of the PFP as a "Mainlander party."

PFP members have strongly disputed this characterization.

The PFP's perceived aggressiveness is another reason that many grassroots KMT members find the merger proposal unattractive, said a grassroots KMT supporter surnamed Chen.

"The KMT is a party of mo-desty," said Chen, a resident of Kaohsiung City.

"The PFP has left us with the impression of being belligerent and aggressive, which we do not like," Chen said.

Chen's remarks echo those of KMT Legislator Tseng Tsai Mei-tsuo (曾蔡美佐), who said that cantankerous behavior displayed by PFP legislators has turned off many grassroots KMT supporters.

"Believing that the KMT should uphold an image of being rational and moderate, many grassroots supporters find the PFP's actions unacceptable," said Tseng Tsai, who represents a constituency in Yunlin County.

Tseng Tsai was referring to behavior such as that displayed by PFP Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) on election night.

Outraged by the results of the presidential election -- in which Lien, running on a ticket with his PFP counterpart James Soong (宋楚瑜), lost to President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) by a margin of less than 30,000 votes -- Chiu stood atop a truck in Kaohsiung and led a crowd in attacking police officers with rocks, sticks and bricks and breaking into the Kaohsiung District Court.

Meanwhile, PFP Legislator Shen Chih-hui (沈智慧) led a crowd in Taichung to the Taichung District Court and attempted to break into the office.

On the Friday following the election, PFP Legislators Lee Ching-hua (李慶華) and Feng Ting-kuo (馮定國) led supporters in a violent rampage outside the Central Election Commission as commission officials were attempting to post an announcement declaring Chen the official winner of the election.

"[The Taipei demonstrations] definitely had a strong effect -- in an unfavorable way -- on locals' impressions of the PFP," said Tseng Tsai, referring to the series of street demonstrations that the KMT-PFP alliance, in its attempt to challenge the result of the election, staged in front of the Presidential Office in the weeks following the voting.

One demonstration in particular left a bad impression: the one on April 10, which turned ugly and violent as some protesters refused to leave the protest site when the event's permit expired.

Clashes broke out between riot police and angry demonstrators, resulting in injuries to 127 people, including 86 police officers, 27 protesters and 14 reporters, according to Taipei police.

It was noticeable that among the pan-blue politicians who addressed the protesters at the protest venues, PFP legislators spent noticeably more time behind the microphone than did KMT figures.

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